By Jason Beans, CEO and founder of
The key to effective leadership is to have a picture in your head and communicate that inspiration to your team so everyone knows where you are all headed.
Think the Vulcan mind meld where the whole team is heading the same direction. Pictures are how people like to learn and communicate. It comes as no surprise that Pinterest is the new hottest social media site. As a leader, you have been doing vision boards in some way, shape or form to get to where you are today, even if just in your head. The issue is they are in your own head and not in the minds of your teammates.
In 2007, I decided to document my vision for the company. I created a “Look-Out Point,” where everyone could see for miles and miles into the distance of our gorgeous future. I sat down not once, not twice, but many times over six months to write “Look-out Point,” the vision for my company by 31 December, 2012.
The process took me into hibernation for a week to get the first draft finalized. If you don’t yet have a vision plan, or an updated one, the most important thing you can do is carve-out a window of time to get your thoughts on paper for how your company will look, function and be in 2018. After all, an idea, not written down, never existed.
Here are some tips to help you create your best, most effective five-year plan.
- Write in the Present: Writing, or speaking, in the present is psychologically more compelling and effective for the reader. Rather than saying, “We will lead healthcare in a new direction,” say, “We are leading healthcare in a new direction.” Write the vision plan like you would a daily mantra. This is the power of positive visualization.
- Get Specific on Outcome: Divide the vision plan into small, bite-size sections. In “Look-Out Point,” I identified 18 sections of importance (i.e., Our Mission, Brand, Culture & Spirit, Where, What We Do, Products, etc.). To make the vision more concrete, use visual and emotional words and show how you’d like to mirror other well-known companies. For instance, our vision plan states, “We are likened to the usability of Apple products, the innovation of Google, the performance of a BMW and the security of a Volvo.” Your people will have a better sense of what you are trying to achieve with the company’s overall look, feel and perception in the marketplace.
- Stay General on How: When I first wrote the document, it was more than 100 pages long. I realized I was telling my team “how” they’d reach the end – a limiting strategy seeing technology changes and the minds you hire will hopefully steer how you get there. Just as you would if you were hosting a party in five years, tell employees the theme, time and address, but let them figure out if they’ll walk, cab, drive, take back roads or the highway. All they need to know is where to meet you. With that one little adjustment, the plan shrunk from 100 pages to 11.
- Inspire: Make sure the pictures you paint resonate with your people. If this is a party, you want it to be the party of the century. Enlist the contributions of your leadership team. Let your organization’s leaders feel like they own that plan by having them tweak the final. If they contribute to the creation of the plan then they’ll help drive it.
- Be Bold: Keep your voice and message lofty, yet attainable. Competition is keen in every industry. Make sure you’ll be the winner if you achieve the plan. Include your 30-year long-term plan on the last page of the five-year vision, as it’s extremely helpful for you to identify what the long-term goal is. Most likely, five years is not the end of the road for your company.
Once you’re done with your vision plan make it visible. Share your five-year plan with every current employee and every new hire. We test every new employee on its content. We go over a section at every manager meeting monthly. This has to be lived and breathed by your team in order to make it happen.
As I look back over “Look-Out Point,” I’m astonished at how time flies. I see how far we have come as a company – increasing our workforce, revenues and impact on society – and I know that a strong vision plan helped get us there. We missed on a few areas, and I intend to analyze “why” we did and how we can do better. Regardless, I know we achieved much more with a plan than without one. So while 2018 sounds far off, it’s right around the corner. The preparations you make today, even if they’re just thoughts on paper, will guide and keep you on course.